Family and friends attended a Celebration of Life for Tom Baker on Thursday evening at River Forks Park.
It was a fitting tribute to Baker, an avid Roseburg High School wrestling supporter and an important behind-the-scenes guy for a top-notch program that has won six consecutive Class 6A state titles and 11 of the past 13.
Baker passed away on April 8 following a battle with cancer. He was 69.
“Tom has been a fixture on the bench at practice, a devoted fan and advocate for the Roseburg wrestling program,” RHS head coach Steve Lander wrote on the Roseburg Wrestling Facebook page following Baker’s passing. “An outstanding volunteer and supporter of our wrestlers.
“The greatest thing he ever did for Roseburg wrestling was when he shared his son Colby with our program. First as a team manager, then as an assistant coach. Tom was as brave and tough as any wrestler in his fight with cancer. He even withheld the news because he didn’t want it to be a distraction to the team.”
Lander, the Tribe’s head coach the past 17 years, called it a great turnout. He counted around 50 current or former wrestlers at the Celebration of Life.
“Tom loved wrestling, and loved supporting Roseburg wrestling,” Lander said. “Those kind of people are very important when you’re trying to run a program. He always had his hands in what was going on, or even ahead of the game plan. With fund raising, he had a lot of ideas and energy.”
Baker wrote Roseburg wrestling articles for the Douglas County News.
“He took on the Facebook thing when that started,” Lander said. “He kept people informed on what was going on. He loved following the boys and supporting them.”
Longtime assistant wrestling coach Dave Maley agreed Baker was an unsung volunteer.
“Tom Baker meant a lot of things,” Maley said. “He had a lot of integrity and positivity. He was always there for the kids, he was about the kids. He tried to help everybody do the right thing and be a positive influence. Even though he wasn’t a coach and wasn’t trying to be a coach, he was there for the kids.
“Colby being part of the program was probably one of the highlights the last 10 years. Everybody loved Colby ... as coach Lander would say in a stressful situation, Colby would do something funny. Okay, life isn’t that serious. It’s OK.”
Unfortunately, Baker was too ill to attend Roseburg’s latest state championship at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. But you know the coaches and wrestlers were thinking about him.
“He loved every wrestler,” one former matman said. “It didn’t matter if you were the worst or best wrestler, he loved you.”
DOUGLAS COACH OUT
Jason Dickover won’t be the head coach of the Douglas High School girls basketball team next season.
The 47-year-old, a 1990 graduate of Douglas who was an all-state post for the boys basketball team, recently learned of his firing through a letter. That stemmed from a complaint from one of the player’s parents, who was unhappy with his system.
“Not my choice,” Dickover said on Friday. “It’s a huge disappointment.”
Dickover coached the Douglas girls the past three seasons, compiling a record of 38-28. He previously guided the program five years ending in 2011.
Dickover also coached the Douglas boys for six seasons.
This decision stinks. Dickover is a very good basketball coach — he’s proved it with the boys and girls. Shame on those who got him shoved out the door.
Carl Bone, a former Douglas coach who once ran the wrestling and volleyball programs, weighed in on Dickover’s dismissal.
“They (the school board) didn’t even have the guts to talk to him personally,” Bone wrote in an email. “Parents have way too much say in the coaching process. It’s one thing if you have a coach that’s treating the girls badly, or they don’t win any games, but just because you don’t like their offense?
“Schools have a hard enough time getting coaches today and too much parent involvement makes it even harder. We used to have helicopter parents who were always hovering around, but now we have lawnmower parents. Instead of preparing their child for the road ahead, they try to prepare the road ahead for their child.”
Dickover hasn’t decided on his future coaching plans. He’ll continue to teach social studies at Winston Middle School.